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Review: SPRING AWAKENING at DreamWrights Center For Community Arts

DreamWrights Center for Community Arts takes on this emotional rollercoaster of a show through June 26th

Review: SPRING AWAKENING at DreamWrights Center For Community Arts

The rock musical Spring Awakening, by Duncan Sheik and Steven Slater, is an adaptation of a 1891 German play of the same name written by Frank Wedekind. Spring Awakening first opened on Broadway in 2006, starring Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele. The story features a group of teenagers in late 19th century Germany. It explores the tumultuous experiences of growing up, delving into the curiosity and excitement of love and sexuality as well as the anger, fear, and confusion that accompany experiences of failure, loss, abuse, and suicide. Spring Awakening is a show that faces difficult themes head-on, refusing to ignore the complexities of growing up. Under the direction of Deirdre and Gabriel Casey, DreamWrights Center for Community Arts takes on this emotional rollercoaster of a show through June 26th.

The set (by Jay Schmuck and Joe Kress) and lighting (by Gregory DeCandia, Enzo Messina, and Wes Smith) for this production are particularly well-designed. Every element of the set, from the wall of books to the tree in the center of that wall to the chandeliers, serves to emphasize the themes of the show. The lighting design uses both illumination and shadow to heighten the mood of the scenes and songs.

The choreography (designed by Deirdre and Gabriel Casey with assistance from Travis Conrad and Declan Casey) is simply mesmerizing, particularly on "Touch Me" and "The Dark I Know Well". The cast brings unwavering energy to every scene and every song. While the sound balance was a little off during the first act of this Friday performance, making it difficult to understand some of the words, the cast's energy and emotion tells the story beautifully. Every single cast member is fully engaged throughout the show, drawing the audience in and refusing to let go until the final moment.

The voices in this young cast are incredible. Under the vocal direction of Brady Bennett, the harmonies are hauntingly beautiful, especially in the final number "The Song of Purple Summer". The full company is comprised of Joshua Schriver, Kayla Bassoff, Jake Francis McLain, Reagan Starrett, Michael Posner, Maddie Ciliento, Joel Perez, Maddie Buckley, Marshall Storm, Sophia Cherwinski, Troi Steele, Brian Gilbert, Mackenzie Buckley, and Brody Verlin. The voices are well-matched in the duets, including "The Word of Your Body" (performed by Joshua Schriver and Kayla Bassoff as well as by Troi Steele and Marshall Storm and Michael Posner and Joel Perez in the reprises), "The Dark I Know Well" (featuring Maddie Ciliento and Reagan Starrett), and "Don't Do Sadness/Blue Wind" (sung by Jake Francis McLain and Reagan Starrett). Overall, the vocal performances in this production are outstanding, and the acting prowess of the cast is equal to their singing talent.

The characters in Spring Awakening are complex and demanding, and the entire cast deserves a standing ovation for how they brought the characters to life. Brian Gilbert and Mackenzie Buckley take on multiple roles as Adult Man and Adult Woman, moving seamlessly from one character to the next, ably changing their demeanor to make each character different. Maddie Ciliento and Reagan Starrett portray Martha and Ilse, characters who are both victims of abuse. Ciliento and Starrett handle the emotional depth of these characters so well that the audience wishes they could take away their pain and shield them from additional abuse. Their scene in the first act is so heart-wrenching it is almost difficult to watch. Michael Posner and Joel Perez, as Hänschen and Ernst, give a tender and hope-filled performance in the second act when they admit their feelings for one another. The three central characters of Moritz, Melchior, and Wendla, are played by Jake Francis McLain, Joshua Schriver, and Kayla Bassoff. The friendship between Moritz and Melchior is portrayed in a wonderfully authentic way by McLain and Schriver. McLain does a great job of showing Moritz's awkwardness and fears of failure, and his facial expressions illuminate Moritz's emotional anguish in his suicide scene. Schriver and Bassoff are adorable as Melchior and Wendla as they explore their feelings for one another. As the story progresses, these actors really demonstrate their emotional range as the characters experience fear, despair, and anguish.

Spring Awakening is a challenging and important show that does not shy away from the difficult experiences in life. The cast and crew at DreamWrights have put together a truly wonderful production of this show. Audiences have two more opportunities to see it, and ticket information, as well as information about the pre-show entertainment and community conversations, can be found at®id=194&

From This Author - Andrea Stephenson

Andrea Stephenson’s love of music and theatre was nurtured by her parents. She started performing as a singer and actor in elementary school, and her passion for the performing arts grew throughout... (read more about this author)

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